Coding as a language


I read an article this week talking about how some schools in (I think) Kentucky have changed some language requirements for their students.

When I was in high school (and middle school and grade school) I never “had” to take a foreign language. Now, my parents had different ideas, but as for the school, there was no foreign language requirement for anything.

Nada…nothing.

That’s not the same as today.

My oldest is getting ready to hit High School and they have to take a least one language class. One semester out of four years of school. They recommend more as “college prep”.

The youngest is in middle school and he has to take a class called “Intro to World Languages”. It’s two semesters long and they sample Spanish, French, German and Mandarin.

I’m a big fan of all this. I think languages are really important and in today’s world, the more you can communicate the better. My parents believed that learning a language accomplished far more than just another communication tool. I tend to agree.

I took multiple years of private, tutored German lessons in grade school. In junior high school, Latin. Yes, Latin. Two years of it. My parents didn’t give me a choice. To be hones, it was a good thing. I learned how languages work in Latin, and how to learn a language. It taught me skills I still use today.

Later in High School, Spanish. Two years.

My parents were correct, I learned more than just communication tools. Today, I still use my Spanish here and there, and the foundations I learned in Latin are still relevant.

But spoken languages aren’t for everyone. They are difficult to learn and you have to practice them. A lot.

So what’s my point here?

Well, in Kentucky, some schools are now allowing coding classes to count as a language.

Yup. You have a language requirement? A Java class will satisfy the requirement.

Don’t like the idea of German? Try Python instead.

Mandarin? How about Objective-C?

It’s a different world and these schools are adapting to it.

At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about this. I’m having more and more “grumpy old man” moments and I was skeptical.

“Damn kids…I had to take a foreign language…hell…I took three! They should have to also!”

But now that I’ve pondered it, I’m a fan.

Think about it for a second.

Coding languages are just that…languages. They have their own syntax, structure and vocabulary. They function much like spoken languages, except that instead of communicating verbally, they communicate (often times) visually.

It’s an intriguing idea, and one that I’m all for.

I’m not recommending this for everyone, and I do NOT think they should replace spoken languages outright. But for some students, I think it’s a fantastic idea.

It encourages kids to get into coding; a skill set that has life-long implications. It’s a skill set that is in high demand today. It teaches critical thinking, organization, structure and often times collaboration.

And I also suspect that it encourages creativity.

There will always be a need for foreign languages. Yes, it’s good to start them early. But there is a stigma to them, and allowing an “alternative” such as this is a progressive move that should be applauded.

I know Kentucky isn’t the first to do this.

I hope they aren’t the last and other school districts follow suit.

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